It’s never a good sign when you’re listed on the depth chart under “other,” or when the only meaningful contact you’ve had in two preseason games was when you tackled teammate Corbin Louks in the end zone to celebrate a touchdown catch in the waning seconds of a come from behind (albeit meaningless) win at Houston last weekend.
It’s fair to say that entering third of four “friendlies” this preseason, that former Colorado State star Kapri Bibbs sits as the number six – out of six – running backs still in camp with the Denver Broncos. He’s not seen a single carry in his very limited preseason action. He’s done a bit of blocking and run some pass routes… and was on the kickoff coverage unit that did so poorly in Seattle, if that means anything.
With the first cut down day looming on Sept. 1, Bibbs’ chances of making the Broncos roster look bleak. He could conceivably return to team’s practice squad for a second year, but even that is far from certain. Despite his tremendous talent, Bibbs could quite possibly be looking at the end of his football career, an end that would come far sooner than it should have.
Just two seasons ago, Bibbs burst on the scene with the CSU Rams, scoring a touchdown at Sports Authority Field in the season opening Rocky Mountain Showdown on his way to a record-setting year in Fort Collins. Bibbs rushed for a school record 1,741 yards and joined Barry Sanders and current teammate Montee Ball as the lone members of college football’s single-season “30 touchdown” club.
That was Bibbs’ first season in green and gold after starting college at Snow College in 2011 and then spending the next year working on his academics at a community college. Jim McElwain saw his talent and lured him to Fort Collins, a move that paid off big for CSU in 2013… and looked like it would keep on paying off. But having already been in college for three years, Bibbs was NFL draft eligible after his sophomore season, and he shocked CSU fans when he declared for the NFL draft following the 2013 season.
At the time, most observers questioned the move. Playing one season of major college football normally isn’t enough of a resume for the NFL, and sure enough, when the draft came and went, Bibbs was not selected. He signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent. Those who questioned his coming out early appeared to be right. Instead of being a fringe Heisman Trophy and All-America candidate in 2014, with a great chance to elevate his draft stock, Bibbs scratched and clawed through NFL training camp, looking explosive on his handful of preseason carries and scoring three touchdowns. He eventually landed on the Broncos practice squad. He was activated for four games during his rookie year, but did not see game action.
At that point, it was fair to say that perhaps Bibbs’ decision wasn’t a mistake after all. But then he was cut by Denver and eventually returned to the practice squad. Not much positive has happened since. Instead of carrying the ball 25 times on Saturdays last fall, Bibbs ended up spending his football Sundays on the sidelines, just watching.
Fast forward to today. Had Bibbs stayed at CSU for another season, he could be an attention-grabbing rookie draft pick in someone’s camp right now. Instead, he seems to have backed up, seeing a regression in his preseason playing time and carries from his rookie season. It appears, at least on the surface, that talented Kapri Bibbs has sadly already become an afterthought.
The lesson here is simple: Patience remains a virtue. Most times, people are better served when they don’t make impulsive money grabs, but rather have a big picture plan. No matter what the job description, experience matters to most of those who do the hiring, and Bibbs lacked it. Leaving school as early as he did, even after a great season, he was scoffing at logic and common sense.
Staying in school is not always the best option. For instance, just over a decade ago, quarterback Matt Leinart of USC stayed in school for his senior year so he could enroll in a single ballroom dancing class and play another year for the Trojans. He saw his draft stock take a big hit. Every situation is different. Leinart’s resume, which included a Heisman Trophy, was complete. He didn’t need another year of college football. Bibbs, however, was at the other end of the spectrum. His college career had just begun. The uniform he wore wasn’t the only thing that was green.
The allure of a NFL payday is great, sometimes overpowering. And some players need to earn a living as soon as humanly possible. Sadly, in Bibbs case, the reported $5,000 he earned weekly as a practice squad member for the Broncos last season pales in comparison to the kind of life-changing money he could have earned as a draft pick who received any sort of a multi-year guarantee.
Come Sept. 1, we will likely be able to state it with certainty: Kapri Bibbs should have stayed in school. Hopefully having this potentially special NFL career cut way short will serve as a lesson to others who face a similar decision while traversing their own unique path to long-term success.
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